Hector Cuper of Argentina (Reuters)
With Egypt gearing up for the crunch Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers against Nigeria in March, manager Hector Cuper decided to experiment with a local-based squad in the upcoming friendlies against Jordan and Libya on Wednesday and Friday.
Leading Group G on six points following two easy wins over Tanzania and Chad last year, Egypt will be looking to further enhance their chances of reaching the Nations Cup for the first time since 2010 when they meet Nigeria, their main challengers in the group.
Egypt's one-week training camp in the Upper Egyptian city of Aswan looks to be an integral part of Cuper's preparations, where his side will play Jordan and Libya.
"We chose to play against Jordan and Libya to instill a winning mentality among the players in all games, whether official or friendly matches," the Argentine coach said in a television interview.
"We also want to experiment with some new faces to act as back-ups for our regular players."
The ex-Valencia boss had selected a total of 32 players for the two exhibition games, with Cairo giants Ahly and Zamalek constituting the major bulk – with 10 players called upon from each club.
The entire Ahly and Zamalek backlines were included, with Sabri Rahil, Hamada Tolba, Ali Gabr, Ahmed Dwidar, Ahmed Hegazy, Ramy Rabia, Omar Gaber and Mohamed Hani all making the cut.
Egypt's top two clubs also shared their attacking departments in the national team's roster, with Ramadan Sobhi, Moemen Zakareya, Abdallah El-Said, Amr Gamal, Ayman Hefni, Mahmoud Kahraba, Mostafa Fathi and Bassem Morsi all present.
Similarly, Ahly and Zamalek midfield Hossam Ghaly and Tarek Hamed were both named, before ENPPI's Salah Soliman replaced the latter after he was injured in the 1-1 league draw with Smouha. anchors
Zamalek skipper Shikabala - who made his club comeback in January – was omitted despite starting four games out of the Whites' last five, during which he scored a sublime strike in a 1-0 victory against ENPPI.
On Shikabala, assistant coach Osama Nabih maintained that the ex-Paok midfielder is 'under the management's microscope' citing the nature of the current phase as a reason behind his omission.
"It's just the nature of the phase and the management's point of view that resulted in us leaving him out of the squad," Nabih said.
Despite the inclusion of Ahly and Zamalek regular left-backs Rahil and Tolba, Nabih conceded that the position remains a headache for the management who had to recall another two full-backs.
"In truth, we have a headache because of the left-back zone," Nabih said.
"We decided to call upon further left backs in an attempt to resolve the problem, namely Ali Fathi and Mohamed Nassef"
"Fathi has an international experience having been a part of Egypt's U-20 and U-23 teams, Nassef and Rahil have also played with the national team before."
Fathi, 24, plays for El-Entag El-Harby, while the 27-year-old Nassef is on ENPPI's books.
Record seven-time African champions Egypt resume their 2017 CAN qualifying campaign by visiting Nigeria on March 23 before hosting the Super Eagles four days later.
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